For many of you, social distancing is a new experience. Not for me. I am familiar with the world of not being able to socialise, go shopping, work in an office, travel, go to restaurants, cinemas, and concerts, in other words being free to do what you like. Three years ago, I had two operations and could not work for six months. This was a time of uncertainty for me as I was not sure if the operations would be successful. I was also going through other life changing events including the loss of my job.
I would like to share with you some of the things I discovered during that time and what helped me get through this time of change and uncertainty and emerged enriched with a new understanding of what is important in life.
Conquering anxiety by living in the present
At times, my world appeared to be a scary place. Every day was bringing something else to worry about. I was frightened of the future. It was not a good place to be. It did not matter how many times my friends and family would say “things will get better”. I did not believe them.
I had already been coaching and mentoring in a business environment and knew the power of speaking to someone who is objective and non-judgemental, so I turned to coaching to help me see things differently. And it worked. I realised that I may not be able to prevent certain life events and there was very little point in worrying about the unknown future. By focusing on the present moment, I was able to handle each day one bit at a time.
For six months I was unable to drive, go out on my own or be active. I kept in touch with friends and family by phone and video calls. I also recorded audio messages. Every day, I had a chat with someone. We would talk about what was going on in our respective lives, we would laugh and cry together. It made me feel part of their life. It made me stay in the present moment and think of something else than myself.
Everyone needs a little help from their friends
When I was ill, my friends sent me cards with kind messages, flowers, baked cakes and made dinners for me and looked after me in many other ways. Each kind gesture made me forget about the things that were not going so well and focus instead on the kindness. I was also helping a couple of friends who were going through challenging times (a terminal illness and bereavement). Helping my friends made me forget about what was going on in my life. Helping them helped me.
There is a flip side to everything
During the time of social isolation, when I thought of the things I could not do, I felt utterly miserable. But when I focused on what I still could do, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Similarly, flipping the anxiety regarding the operations and long convalescence on its side meant thinking of the operations as a step towards my recovery and every day would bring me closer to the end of my isolation. The same applies to the current situation - you can think of it as a long period of social distancing or you can see each day as bringing you closer to the end of being housebound.
Discovering what is important in life
I used to be quite materialistic. I thought that having a career, earning a good salary, elevated social status was important. And then I was stripped of all of it. When I was ill at home, none of these things mattered. What mattered was the connection with others, kindness, altruism, the little things I did not notice before like enjoying the breeze on my face and the sun shining. Gratitude for what I have, rather than yearning for more.
Reconnecting with myself
I had much more time on my hands than I had ever had before. I did a lot of soul-searching. Whenever I was well enough, I listened to or read books and acquired new knowledge. I discovered a lot of things about myself including that if I think I cannot cope, I fall apart and become a victim of the circumstances. If I believe I can cope, I will find a way.
This period of self-reflection eventually led me to become a life coach. I am not who I was three years ago. I am at peace with myself, I value what is important and I know that I can achieve great things in life because I am stronger, more resilient and more resourceful than I had ever realised.
This could be life changing for you too
Use the time of change and isolation for self-reflection. There is no need to be driven by anxiety - you do not know what the future holds, so stay focused on what matters now and what changes you would like to make going forward.
You are not alone - even if you are on your own. Get in touch with me if you would like have a chat about how you can change your life, live without anxiety and stress.